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Wolf Biologist Gordon Haber Killed In Plane Crash

October 16, 2009 | Wolves

Friends of Animals sponsored Gordon Haber's remarkable wolf research in Denali National Park and throughout Alaska since 1993. He was the world's expert, the most intelligent voice on Alaska's wolves, and the best friend they had. Gordon's work must carry on; Friends of Animals is dedicated to that effort. His death is tragic. -- Priscilla Feral (story below)

National Parks Traveler

Tragedy-Gordon Haber Killed In Plane Crash in Denali National Park

Posted October 16th, 2009 by Kurt Repanshek

A noted Alaskan wolf biologist has been killed in a plane crash in a remote area of Denali National Park and Preserve. The pilot, though he suffered burns, was able to walk out and alert authorities.

Dr. Gordon Haber and pilot Dan McGregor had left Wednesday for a flight over the northern end of the park to monitor wolf packs. When the Cessna 185 didn't return on schedule that evening, authorities were notified and an aerial search was mounted by the National Park Service and Alaska State Troopers.

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Pilot survived crash that killed wolf biologist, Gordon Haber, Ph.D

The Associated Press


Gordon Haber was one of my dearest friends and colleagues. He loved wolves (so do I) and he did everything he could to help them….regardless of the conventional ignorant animosity toward wolves here in Alaska.. Gordon’s work to protect wolves in Alaska was remarkable-- following on the decades of work by other scientists….Gordon was a true naturalist beyond all, a quintessential scientist….one of the few who really knew and loved his subject….there are few left like him…[Vic Van Ballenberg, Charles Monnett, Lisa Rotterman, Steve Stringham, Craig Matkin are others]… He was one of the finest field biologists I have ever known -- pure and simple. His love and understanding for his subject was a marvel and unequivocal. The love he held for wolves is how humans become human – by loving others, particularly non-humans….that was Gordon and wolves… No human being knew wolves better than Gordon Haber…no one… Trying to stay with wolves and know them is an almost impossible task…and that’s why Gordon loved this so much….it was impossible to really know wolves, but not for Gordon…it was not just possible, it was his life’s mission. He studied them..lived them..loved them…like no one else…This was real science… The world needs more Gordon Habers – lots of them! His loss is Alaska’s loss, America’s loss, and a huge loss to wildlife science – He so loved wolves that he eventually gave his life for them….and that is certainly they way he wanted to go…flying over his wolves….being with them….they way they are… The only way to honor Gordon’s sacrifice is to cease, once and for all, the senseless killing of our wild wolf companions….immediately… Those at the Alaska Outdoor Council and their lackeys in Alaska state government should feel shame tonight….they tormented Gordon and his cause, and now he has died in his study of wolves trying to provide intelligent science to their management decisions, but they simply never got it. Obviously, the deep-rooted ignorance in these circles of the shoot ‘em up crowd prevented them from understanding or even considering Gordon’s real science. These folks at ADFG, the AOC, and the Alaska Board of Game don’t want to be confused with facts. Beyond the political and scientific, there is the human impact of this. Gordon was one of my best friends, he loved wolves, and now he is gone. I am at a loss… We shall live his intention to protect wolves in Alaska. There will be an expanded buffer to protect wolves around Denali Park, and the senseless wolf control program will come to an end. To that we are committed.

Thank you, Rick.

While a member of the board of directors of FoA I had the privilege to get to know Gordon Haber - through his writings which taught me so much and occasional phone conversations. Gordon loved to chat on the phone and I would always ask about his boots. His beloved wilderness boots - always in need of repair. He had this special shoe repair person who never failed to fix them even when Gordon was certain there was no hope. And he wanted no other boots. Some years ago he sent a video of a wolf hunt taken from a plane while following three wolves pursuing a young elk. Though Gordon had surely seen such hunts before, his excitement at watching the wolves' hunting strategies was so palpable that it just carried the viewer along. How fortunate for me that this very special man touched my life.

We have lost a great friend, a good man, one with an incredible mind and heart. If not for Gordon Haber and Friends of Animals, I would have lost hope for Alaska's wolves long ago. Gordon's tireless, fearless, passionate work on behalf of wolves is what we need more of in this world. Now. There's no sense to be made of this tragedy, but we all need to take his messages and causes onward: that scientists should be unafraid to speak out about what they have learned from the animals they study; that wildlife "management" needs to move away from the Descartes model of populations and to a model of animals living in groups, families, as individual; that we all need to live what we believe, every day. Hearts and minds.

I was fortunate to have flown with Gordon on a few earlier occasions looking for wolves and under better circumstances than his last flight. Gordon's reaction to the occasional "bump in the road" was letting out a hoot and slapping his thigh. Gordon's love for wolves made him fearless in his efforts to study them and protect them. The almost yearly encounters he had with grizzly bears in the field and the more frequent encounters with wolf-haters never deterred him from that love. Almost forgot. Thanks Gordon. Bob Orabona Friends of Animals

Rick - thanks for the clear insight into Dr. Haber's work. I had followed him from afar, down in Southeast AK (Sitka) and from my many encounters with wolf-dislikers, I can imagine the strength of character and devotion it took to deal day in and day out with the wolf-haters and others who tried to discredit his science. My heart is heavy today for the loss of Dr. Haber and for the physical and psychic pain that the pilot, Dan, must now endure.

I am not a scientist but I have always been drawn to wolves. Dr. Haber is someone I wish I could have had the honor of knowing. Hopefully his work and his life will not be in vain. We need to protect wildlife.

Gordon Haber was my friend. We had lunch together every Friday when he was in Anchorage for years. We met during a fight to stop aerial wolf hunting in Alaska. Gordon, fresh from his PhD at Univ of British Columbia, brought sound science to our legal argument. We sued the state repeatedly....because Gordon stood for truth and his principles, he sacrificed ever being able to work for any government agency. I think this was meant to be. He was able to maintain his integrity and pursue his true love. It was fortuitous that he took so many aerial research photographs of wolves in his early days. He was able to sell those photos as prints to provide a living for himself when there was no other income. I know, I lent him the first $50 to have a print made. I wonder how many realize that in his early days Gordon lived in the back of a burgundy 1961 Pontiac while at Denali. You could tell his because there were always Twinkies in the back window. He was a poor PhD, but his research went on and there he was rich. Gordon was "eccentric" to some in that he knew what he believed and did not compromise. He believed in the America our founding fathers gave us...not the corrupt bureaucracies of today. He had a sly smile that he let slip when things were going well. We were at a meeting when L. David Mech was speaking on behalf of US Fish and Wildlife about wolves. He would not call on Gordon as Gordon had refuted Mech's stand for aerial wolf hunting. So I raised my hand. Mech called on me. I said I would defer to Dr. Haber. There was Mech not amused and Gordon with that smile. No matter what or where Gordon stood up for the truth about wolves. He built his log cabin at Denali by hand dragging all his logs down a small trail so as to disturb as little of his land as possible...he was caring and concerned. He was attacked by the powers that be for releasing a caribou from a snare set by a wolf trapper. He should have gotten a medal. Thank you Friends of Animals for supporting him all these years. He was the best. I worried about the wolves enough as it was. Who will care for them now. Wake up have been given the great gift of wilderness! Wolves are the thing which makes it true wilderness. Why must you wish to beat it all into submission? To Dr. Gordon Haber I say "Job well done. You are one of my heroes." James L. Pitts NRA Life Member, former pilot for Sportsman's Flying Service, hunter, former Army Officer, Vietnam Veteran....see, political conservatives as in the politics of 1776 can be "rabid" environmentalist too! I'll never forget the night I first encountered wolves in Chilkat Pass and they changed my life. I pray they are still there.

Haber died doing what he loved best - and spent 40 years at it. His science was sound, but, IMO, his conclusions/interpretations/ slant/etc were not. He chose an uphill battle against we "mainstream" advocates of predator control, and never wavered. I never found fault with his science- only with his opinion/advocacy. He was careful to delineate between the two, which is rare for you bunny hugger types. :) We have all lost a rare resource- an honest man who lived as he talked.

Although I never met Gordon Haber, I respected his science and his dedication to wolves. I am saddened by his loss.


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